St Bees Lighthouse has the highest elevation of the Trinity House lighthouses being 102 metres above sea level. It was also the last coal-powered lighthouse in the UK.
A patent was first granted for a lighthouse at St Bees Head in 1718. A coal fire burned at the top of the tower, but the light was often obscured by poor weather or smoke, leading to complaints from shipowners.
The lighthouse was leased by Trinty House to Thomas Lutwige. Lutwige collected light dues to maintain the light from the neighbouring ports of Whitehaven, Maryport and Whitehaven.
In 1822 when tragedy struck at the lighthouse when a fire broke out. The fire destroyed the lighthouse and the keeper’s wife and five children were killed.
A new tower replaced the 1718 tower. Designed by Joseph Nelson, the new lighthouse had an enclosed lantern. This lantern housed 15 Argand oil lamps with parabolic reflectors.
An explosive fog signal was established in 1913.
During World War 2 the local Home Guard were reported to have used the tower for target practice but there is no record of any firing or damage caused.
In the mid-1950s St Bees lighthouse was electrified, and an electric fog tannoy was installed in the 1960s. This signal is located in a separate building close to the cliff edge. The fog signal was later discontinued.
The lighthouse was automated in 1987 when the keepers were removed, and the light was monitored from the Trinity House Depot at Holyhead. This was later transferred to the Trinity House Control Centre in Harwich.
The lighthouse was upgraded again in February 2021 when new LED lights were installed by Trinity House.
From the beaches north of St Bees, the headland at St Bees rises to form the only cliffs along the coast of Cumbria.
St Bees forms part of the classic Coast to Coast walk which starts (or ends) at St Bees and leads to Robin Hoods Bay in Yorkshire.